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Why is it necessary to ask a Rabbi?


In various places on this site, including the FAQ, we have the following disclaimer:

Like Wikipedia, this site makes no guarantee of validity, and does not offer professional (particularly rabbinic) advice. Treat information from this site like it came from a crowd of your friends.

This disclaimer is motivated by the concern that people might consult this site for personal advice about what Judaism says they should do instead of consulting their own Rabbi. Along similar lines, many people here include in answers about Jewish practice a recommendation that the reader consult their own Rabbi.

What is the reason for this concern?

Why is it so important to speak, in particular, to a Rabbi (and especially to "your local" one)?

What would be so wrong with simply using good-looking information from a site like this one that we need disclaimers all over the place and constant warnings?

Why should this post be closed?

This post was sourced from It is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.


1 answer


We are concerned with being the cause of somebody else erring. Parshat Kedoshim tells us "do not place a stumbling-block before the blind", which is interpreted to mean not only what it plainly says but also "don't be an enabler for a bad outcome". Causing somebody else to unknowingly transgress what God wants us to do is a pretty serious "bad outcome".

In order to become a rabbi one must study halacha and the sources that inform it in depth. Non-rabbis can also be serious scholars and I wouldn't write off a lay person who is, but most people don't know one.

As for "local", I think this is shorthand for "consult someone who will be your rabbi". Pirke Avot tells us "make for yourself a rav"; this is because most questions are not so clear-cut, and individual circumstances can bear on the answer. The rav needs to know not only the specific question but what is causing you to ask it. For example (and I'm just making this up here; I am not a posek etc), if you ask the generic question "can I go to a church service?" the answer is generally going to be "no". If you ask "can I go to the wedding of the sibling I've just recently reconciled with, who is marrying out, but not showing up could undo that reconciliation?", the answer might be different. Your rav should be someone who knows you and ideally you should be having these conversations face-to-face, hence "local".

This post was sourced from It is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.

1 comment

More pointedly, Rabbis have the power to decide questions of Jewish law for their local community. (This has been highlighted in 2020 as rabbis around the world have made urgent local decisions about Jewish observance during the pandemic, but there are broader applications of minhag ha'makom.) Aliza about 1 month ago

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